Two-hundred and fifty pensioners in their 60s, 70s, and even their 80s turned out in front of the Italian Parliament Friday morning to protest the new round of austerity measures, expected to pass later in the day.
“We are here because the Italian economic situation is not good, especially for simple people," said 55-five-year-old Miriam Broglia, who works for the pension system. “We are here because the Italian economic situation is not good, especially for simple people. The austerity measures are not good for us…but for rich people, the measures are good.”
Many of the demonstrators believe they will face lower pensions as a result of the law. No one is sure because it has moved through Parliament in a lightning-quick five days. Like the recent health-care reform law in the U.S., many people are discovering what's in it after the fact.
One item is certain—Italians will now have a co-pay of 10 to 25 euros to see a medical specialist. Up until now it was free. Seeing a general practicioner is still gratis.
Also included in the austerity measures: Higher taxes on gasoline, raising the retirement age, and other fees.
Particularly galling to the pensioners is the cost of the Italian Parliament itself. A story earlier this week in Italy’s premier financial newspaper il Sole 24 Hore (24 Hours of Sunlight) printed a multi-page expose on just how much money members of Parliament cost the country: Some 24 billion euros a year.
According to the report, Italian law makers make more than 11,000 euros a month, the highest salary in Europe, and more than double the national average salary for parliamentarians across the continent. Adding to the cost, Italy has one of the largest Parliaments in all of Europe.
Also raising the ire of the public: The high cost of official government cars, costing $1 billion euros a year. There are numerous other perks, as well.
Many of the protestors felt that they were making sacrifices while the government is not. Some used off-color remarks to describe the country’s Prime Minister Silvio Berloscuni, one woman telling CNBC he is "a pig."
Berlusconi, who is currently in the midst of four on-going trials at once—one for sleeping with an underage woman, and three for corruption and abuse of office—hasn’t been seen in public all week. (Slideshow: 11 International Scandals)
The headline of one union newspaper blared across the front page today: “Berlusconi Raises Taxes, and Then Hides."